A world-leading UK research project to study the properties of new materials has been given further funding of £3.4M.

The grant is for the continued operation of the British funded X-ray Beamline ( XMaS – X-ray Magnetic Scattering) based at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility at Grenoble, France.

In very basic terms the synchrotron is a huge x-ray machine. These x-rays are millions of times brighter than the ones produced in a hospital environment for examining patients or by laboratory research equipment. Scientists use these x-rays to investigate new combinations of elements with unique properties. The synchrotron hosts scores of experiments simultaneously. It has been likened to a huge microscope that uses x-rays instead of visible light to “see” things at the atomic and molecular level.

This research could impact on future developments in many areas including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, computer hard disks, catalytic converters, batteries and large screen television displays.

The money has been awarded by the Swindon based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The research on XMaS is being led by Professor Malcolm Cooper of the University of Warwick and Dr Chris Lucas of the University of Liverpool.

“XMaS provides a unique opportunity for UK scientists to pursue internationally-leading research at a state-of-the-art synchrotron facility,” said Dr. Chris Lucas. “The training of scientists and PhD students will ensure UK competitiveness in the future development and application of synchrotron radiation to study the physical properties of new materials.”

“The combination of instrumentation that we have developed on XMaS makes the facility second-to-none worldwide for atomic scale studies ranging from the structure of novel computer storage media to the surface reactions of catalysts and battery materials,” said Professor Cooper “with lots still to be done if materials are to be understood and engineered to society’s advantage.”


The research on XMaS is being directed by Professor Malcolm Cooper of the University of Warwick and Dr Chris Lucas of the University of Liverpool. Malcolm Cooper, together with Professor Bill Stirling (University of Liverpool), led the team that designed and built the beamline originally in a project that they started almost one decade ago. Professor Stirling is now the Director General of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), where XMaS was built and opened for business in 1997.   
“EPSRC funded both the initial construction of XMaS and its first five years of operation” said EPSRC Physics Programme Manager Lucy Brady “The award of this further 5 years of funding reflects the high quality research carried out by UK researchers using the beamline and the broad range of future scientific opportunities that XMaS will allow researchers to explore.” Over the last ten years EPSRC funding for the beamline has amounted to eight million pounds.   

The ESRF is one of the world’s leading research centres for synchrotron radiation research. It is supported by 12 European nations including the United Kingdom. Operating a powerful source of light in the X-ray range, the ESRF is a large experimental facility for basic and applied research in physics, chemistry, materials and life sciences.
XMaS is used regularly by more than 12 UK groups who, together with the on site team, have developed it into a cutting edge facility for the study of a range of novel materials.

For more information on XMaS visit: www.esrf.fr/exp_facilities/BM28/xmas.html
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the largest of the United Kingdom’s seven government-funded research councils. Its mission is to support the highest quality research and related postgraduate training in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC aims to advance knowledge and technology and to provide trained engineers and scientists for the benefit of the United Kingdom and the quality of life of its citizens. It has the further role of promoting public awareness of engineering and the physical sciences. Website address for more information: www.epsrc.ac.uk/

For more information contact:

Professor Malcolm Cooper tel 02476 523379 e-mail m.j.cooper@warwick.ac.uk

Dr Chris Lucas tel 0151 794 3361 e-mail clucas@liverpool.ac.uk

An aerial picture of the Grenoble site is available from Jane Reck, EPSRC Press Officer. Tel 01793 444312. E-mail: jane.reck@epsrc.ac.uk